Loneliness affects us all and we need to act

A new BBC campaign is highlighting the issue of loneliness but, says Tracey Robbins, we need to make sure we all act to prevent it.

The BBC's #take10 campaign is not the first attempt to highlight the issue of loneliness, and - says Tracey Robbins - we need to make sure we all act to prevent it.

Two thirds of British adults think they should do more to help family, friends and neighbours who are lonely, according to a BBC poll out this week. The same survey finds that 85 per cent of people would prefer speaking to friends and family face to face.

The findings have inspired the BBC’s #take10 campaign which encourages us all to take 10 minutes to reconnect or connect with another person. This will be supported by a mini-series, airing each morning from Monday 15 to Friday 19 December on BBC1. It’s called Operation Meet the Streets and features TV chef James Martin and others exploring people’s experiences of loneliness and neighbourliness.

But identifying loneliness is nothing new. In 1947, the Nuffield Foundation and social researcher Seebohm Rowntree studied the care of older people and their experiences of loneliness. They concluded that loneliness is not dependent on physical isolation and there is no one simple remedy for it – an approach that rings true to this day.

As JRF’s research shows, loneliness will not be tackled by services alone. Services can only provide the safety net for those we have allowed to fall through. We must all act. Loneliness does not just harm us as individuals, it harms our neighbourhoods and communities. Rather than looking at is as an issue that affects individuals, we look at how it affects neighbourhoods, and what neighbourhoods can do to prevent it.

Much thought, research and campaigning have happened over the years to raise the awareness of loneliness and the damage it causes. All this is irrelevant unless we reconnect. We will all know someone who is lonely; we may even be lonely ourselves. Too often we admit to neither, for there is no quick fix, no silver bullet, no one-size-fits-all solution. Our reasons for being lonely are as unique as we are.

With all this in mind, I would encourage everyone to:

  • Take time to look at your life – are you prioritising your family and friends?
  • Take a look at where you live and work – what can you do to foster new friendships?
  • Take to your streets – do you know your neighbours, young and old?
  • Take care of yourself and of others and remember we all have something to give.

Christmas is a great opportunity to reach out and reconnect, but we could all make this our new year’s resolution for years to come as well, so we all can have a life less lonely.